CHARLES SCHWAB: PUTTING FACE ON FACELESS FINANCIAL SERVICES

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Charles Schwab & Co. has put a face on the impersonal world of financial services.

The face is the company's eponymous founder and chairman, who regularly appears in TV spots heralding Schwab's trailblazing efforts at customer service, and who has been responsible for its rapid growth.

The discount brokerage started 20 years ago and now manages nearly $100 billion in investor assets. Today Schwab's riding the wave of interest in mutual funds, and is positioning itself as a broader financial-services resource.

"Our longer-term brand strategy is to be more than just a discount broker," says Jeffrey Lyons, senior VP-marketing. "We really want to live up to what our tagline is, which is `helping our investors help themselves."'

To that end, the company was the first to offer 24-hour trading and customer service, via a toll-free number in the early 1980s.

Although it's broadening into new areas, including its innovative OneSource program that offers customers competing mutual funds, the company isn't abandoning its core customer base of cost-conscious stock-market investors. Schwab was the first to offer both Windows and Macintosh-based trading software packages.

Schwab has had to adapt to a new glut of even deeper discount brokers. The trick is maintaining its lower-price strategy while positioning itself as more than just an trading executor.

Mr. Schwab will continue to help drive home that message in the company's $20 million to $25 million media campaign, handled in-house. Schwab also does extensive direct marketing, to both current customers and to callers generated by its advertising.

"Discount brokerage is sort of this faceless, impersonal [business], ... and Chuck really brings a personality to what we have to sell," says Mr. Lyons.

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